Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

I already have a will which was prepared by an attorney. I am now on a fixed income and wish to delete my children off the will or give them only $1.00 to keep them from protesting the will after I'm gone. Where ca I get this change made with very little to no charge? Thank you.

Asked on 1/01/12, 6:53 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson
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Depending on your household income, you may qualify for free legal services through the Community Legal Services office in your county. If you don't qualify according to their eligibility guidelines, or if that office doesn't provide wills services, they may be able to refer you to the county bar association. Some bar associations have of lists of lawyers who will provide services at lower cost.

THIS RESPONSE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, SINCE I DO NOT HAVE ALL OF THE INFORMATION THAT WOULD BE REQUIRED, AND I DO NOT HAVE A REPRESENTATION AGREEMENT WITH YOU.

* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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1/01/12, 9:49 am
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If you want to disinherit your children, you may do so. Leaving them $1.00 is, in my view, not very smart. You will leave behind a lot of hurt feelings which, if you're deceased, cannot be undone. It would be better for you to state simply that you are choosing not to make any provision for your children or wish to disinherit them for your own personal reasons.

However the choice is yours. You also can add an "in terrorem" (in terror) clause which says that if anyone contests your will they cannot inherit. However, these clauses do not prevent people from challenging a will if they have valid grounds, so in my view, they are not all that effective. You can accomplish the same result by disinheriting the beneficiary and by making sure that no possible grounds to challenge the will would exist. Typically, grounds exist where the person who made the will (the testator) either lacked mental capacity or some type of fraud or undue influence existed. If no grounds exist, then a beneficiary is not likely to file a will caveat - caveats cost money and it has to be worth it. No beneficiary is going to spend money when there is little chance that they will win.

Getting back to your problem - you can try a do-it-yourself kit from www.nolo.com or some other service. I am not endorsing these products. While they may or may not be fine for you, you could screw it up in trying to draft your own will. Further, these kits are usually meant for uncomplicated situations. You are trying to disinherit your children which is a complicating factor.

You can do a couple of things - try one of Attorney Jacobson's suggestions. There are lawyers who will provide you a service pro bono (for free) or at reduced costs. Wills should not cost all that much anyway. Shop around - prices can vary. If you only want to disinherit your children but leave all else the same, consider a codicil to your will. Perhaps that will be cheaper. But ask the attorney how much they would charge for a codicil as opposed to a whole new will. A caution about codicils - usually these must be executed with the same formality as your original will and unless the change is minor, I recommend just doing a whole new will.

If you are really strapped, look at your old will. If it was done correctly, you can copy some of the old language and just change the part regarding distribution of your assets to reflect that you are disinheriting your children and name the new beneficiaries. This is my least favorite option and unless you are exceptionally savvy about what you are doing, it will be better for you to seek out legal counsel. Further, the laws may have changed or prior counsel may have erred. For this reason, its better to get a lawyer to look it over and make the changes for you. You don't want to leave your beneficiaries the unintended legacy of an expensive lawsuit by trying to save a few dollars.

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1/02/12, 8:16 pm

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